Periscope Depth

a candle with a broken wick, a puddle that reflects the sun

Apparently I have nothing better to talk about than some commercials I think are odd.

When settling in for the Burn Notice mid-season finale on Hulu, I was offered a choice between watching short commercials at the usual intervals or watching a 2:45 commercial for Tom’s of Maine. I opted for the former.

It’s a good commercial as far as “greenwashing” goes. But you know what would better convince me that the folks at Tom’s of Maine really care about reducing post-consumer waste? If they stopped making mouthwash.

“Halitosis,” or chronic bad breath, was invented whole cloth by the ad agency pushing Listerine in the 1920s (source; see also Freakonomics). Granted, the idea of humans having bad breath isn’t a fiction: we all smell a little gamey in the morning. But you can cure that by brushing your teeth with conventional toothpaste or, for truly dire cases, chewing a stick of gum. Most OTC mouthwashes have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of gingivitis, which is a legitimate gum disease. But when’s the last time you heard the word “gingivitis” outside of a mouthwash commercial? And while mouthwashes do help reduce the build-up of tooth plaque, regular brushing will do the same. When it comes to actually keeping your teeth healthy, mouthwash is probably not worth the price you pay for it.

Mouthwash is a classic example of the consumer-packaged goods machine in overdrive: Invent A Problem, Sell The Solution. “Create an anxiety relievable through purchase,” to quote Infinite Jest. Almost nobody needs mouthwash.

So why does Tom’s of Maine make mouthwash? Why do they spend a few million a year filling plastic bottles with chemicals, sticking a paper label on the front with industrial adhesives, and shipping them to stores nationwide via diesel-burning trucks? Because they can turn a profit doing it. That’s not a crime; that’s not even a sin. But it’s a little silly to claim that it’s part of an environmentally friendly philosophy.

(For added but opposite LOLz, check out the highest-rated comments on the YouTube video. Apparently a Colgate subsidiary advocating environmentalism is the first step towards an Atlas Shrugged-nightmare of socialized business)

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This one’s more goofy:

The hell is wrong with you, rabbit? A rattlesnake doesn’t use its rattle to intimidate its prey. It uses its rattle to warn things off. It’s saying, “Look out, I’m a rattlesnake!” The rattle is a favor to you, soft wad of meat with no defensive countermeasures. I’m sorry you find the rattlesnake’s consideration so hilarious, Mr. Rabbit. Maybe next time the rattlesnake won’t bother warning you. Maybe he’ll just inject you with fatal toxins.

I’m just saying: don’t mess with rattlesnakes.

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